Leadership

CIO Jury: Does 'geek' stereotype still dog IT execs?

Or is the barrier to moving into business roles all in the mind...

Getting boxed into technology roles is still a barrier to career progress for many IT workers, according to UK IT execs.

IT training companies have this week reported increased demand in business-related courses from techies keen to avoid getting dogged with the 'geek' stereotype and ending their days in a dark basement office next to the server room.

But half of silicon.com's 12-man CIO Jury IT user panel claim there are still significant barriers preventing both IT professionals and IT executives from moving into broader business roles within their organisation.

Michael Elliot, IT director at toy-maker Hasbro, said: "The stereotype of the technical specialist in an ivory tower from 20 years ago is difficult to breakdown."

Paul Broome, IT director at 192.com, suggested that honesty is the downfall of IT people. He said: "Most IT types are principled and disarmingly honest about things. They will say 'the least worst option is X' in boardrooms where such disarming candidness is seen as alien in a culture of marketing buzzwords."

That is slowly changing as CIOs are gaining more credibility and respect as businesses become more and more dependent on technology, according to Victor Kemeny, IT director at William Hill.

But Ric Francis, operations director at the Post Office and former CIO, said getting boxed into IT and allowing it to drift into a peripheral role comes down to the behaviour of the individual rather than any organisational barrier.

He said: "Fix these issues, become relevant and earn your seats at the table. It's not the function or its role but leadership."

Yawar Murad, CIO at GE Life Insurance, agreed: "The barriers are mental - CIOs and IT directors must understand the business drivers and where the industry is heading and make sure they are included in the business conversations in addition to managing the bits and bytes."

Today's CIO Jury was…

Nicholas Bellenberg, IT Director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Paul Broome, IT director, 192.com
Colin Cobain, IT director, Tesco
Kirk Downey, CTO, Centrica
Michael Elliot, IT director, Hasbro
Ric Francis, operations director, Post Office
Victor Kemeny, IT director, William Hill
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT programmes director, Voca
Yawar Murad, CIO, GE Insurance
Rob Neil, head of ICT, Ashford Borough Council
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Jacques Rene, IT director, Airclaims

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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